Wishing all my readers a blessed Easter and spiritual and physical health in these difficult times. May you be granted all the graces you need to save your souls.


Before beginning this piece, a few reminders are in order. First of all, the minds of the popes have been clearly and forcefully represented in this series of blog posts and, for many years running, in articles on this website. Traditionalists may brandish canon laws on publishing to squelch the theological works of their opponents, but we long ago posted this article at https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/free-content/1-credentials/where-is-your-imprimatur/citing the documents of several popes who encourage Catholics to defend the faith, especially in times such as these. (Please note the comment posted to the Palm Sunday blog on “ignorance” for important exceptions to this obligation). As we have noted in nearly every article posted to this website, the authority of the popes, the Sacred Congregations, the Ecumenical Councils and the unanimous opinions of theologians is superior to anything that can possibly be produced by Traditionalists on their own authority, whether they quote a specific  theologian or point to the canons. They betray their ignorance of the Catholic faith whenever they pretend that these inferior sources could ever provide them with the proofs of validity and liceity they are obligated to produce (Can. 200) to continue their ministrations, ministrations which the Roman Pontiffs have utterly voided.

Canon Law

Catholics are obliged to heed all papal decrees as well as obey the canons, which the Church tells us are negatively infallible (The Catholic Encyclopedia). This means they cannot teach anything contrary to doctrine, nor can these decrees be twisted around to make it appear they are doing so. We are to obey only the popes, Christ’s Vicars, NOT Traditionalists peddling their interpretations of papal decrees and Canon Law; they are not our lawful pastors as previous blogposts and website articles have repeatedly demonstrated. Nor can anyone object to laypersons who point out the teachings of Canon Law according to the very rules laid down for its interpretation (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/articles/a-catholics-course-of-study/canon-law/who-interprets-the-law/) And while Traditionalists try to make it seem that Canon Law can somehow be used to circumvent papal teaching, they have it backwards. This error is pointed out and circumscribed by Pope Pius IX in Quartus Supra, quoted in our blog piece on the necessity of the papal mandate:

“They call Our attention to the customs and canons of their churches as if We had abandoned the provisions of the sacred canons. We might respond to these men in the same way Our predecessor St. Gelasius did when the Acacian schismatics brought the same false accusation against him: They cite the canons against Us without knowing what they are saying since they show that they are themselves in opposition to the canons by the very fact that they deny obedience to the first See although its advice is sound and correct. For these are the very canons which recognize the full, divine authority of blessed Peter over the whole Church. Indeed, they proclaim that he lives and exercises judgment in his successors to the present time and forever, as the Council of Ephesus affirmed.”

Concerning Canon Law’s constitution, Rev. Francis J. Schaeffer writes in this volume: “The ultimate source of Canon Law is God, whose will is manifested either by the very nature of things (natural Divine law) or by Revelation (positive Divine law) …To attain its sublime end, the Church, endowed by its Founder with legislative power, makes laws in conformity with natural and Divine law. The sources or authors of this positive ecclesiastical law are essentially the episcopate and its head, the pope, the successors of the Apostolic College and its divinely appointed head, St. Peter. They are, properly speaking, the active sources of Canon Law. Their activity is exercised in its most solemn form by the ecumenical councils…(these) councils, especially…Trent, hold an exceptional place in ecclesiastical law… The sovereign pontiff is the most fruitful source of Canon Law: …From the earliest ages the letters of the Roman Pontiffs constitute, with the canons of the Councils, the principal element of Canon Law; … they are everywhere relied upon and collected, and the ancient canonical compilations contain a large number of these precious decretals.”

The Roman Pontiff has the last say on Canon Law; not vice versa. Owing to his supremacy of jurisdiction. The pope is bound by the laws he enacts, to set an example for the community. But according to Abp. Amleto Cicognani in his Canon Law (1935), he is still able to change those same laws and clarify them if any questions should arise. When it comes to interpretation, the mind of the lawgiver is the only trustworthy guarantee of what the Church teaches regarding any given canon of the 1917 Code, and this brings us to the considerations below.

Doubts of law


In the scheme of things, Can. 6§4 regarding doubts of law must be followed before the other canons (Can. 18 or 20) can even be consulted, but Traditionalists do not even attempt to obey this canon. Revs. Woywod-Smith write in their Canon Law commentary: “The student of Canon Law must keep in mind the rules of Can. 6 throughout the whole course of study of the Code, for these rules are the key to the correct interpretation of all the laws of the Code.” As Abp. Cicognani points out: “Correction of the law is essentially odious,” and Pope Pius XII has infallibly enshrined this statement in his Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis. Canon 6§4 instructs the canonists: “In case of doubt, whether some provision of the Canons differs from the old law, the old law must be followed.” Canon 18 tells readers that when they encounter doubts regarding ecclesiastical law, they must consult the end and circumstances of the law, the mind of the lawgiver and parallel passages of the Code.

So now we jump to Can. 18 to find the provisions of the old law listed under that canon, which number only two. The footnote admonishes canonists: “Our words are interpreted by others according to their intended meaning. The intention ought not to be subservient to the words, but the words to the intention. The first footnote source, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, Cochin, China,1827, explains: “Human law does not oblige, nor does it operate beyond the expressed intention of the legislator.” The second and primary source, Pope Eugenius IV’s letter Fide Digna, (July 8, 1440) teaches: “We say explicitly that it was not the intention of the lawgiver to expose the souls of the faithful to the danger of mortal sin in communicating… For the intention rather than the sound of words is to be carefully considered.” So much for the CMRI claim that Pope Pius XII would not wish his laws to bind because they are injurious to souls. Any rational person reading these words would automatically know that this intention could never countenance the clear lack of confessional jurisdiction Traditionalists falsely claim to possess and the Sacrament of the Eucharist they sacrilegiously administer. This is proven below.

Those wishing to question or term as doubtful any laws regarding the nature, possession or application of jurisdiction will first have to reject the infallible papal election law of Pope Pius XII, written specifically for these times. This law, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/free-content/reference-links/1-what-constitutes-the-papacy/apostolic-constitution-vacantis-apostolicae-sedis/), forbids anyone to usurp anything regarding papal jurisdiction or to change the laws or disregard them during an interregnum. Furthermore, there is Pope Pius XII’s related authentic interpretation of Can. 147 with its ipso facto excommunication especially reserved to the Holy Seefor: “1) those who contrive against legitimate ecclesiastical authorities or attempt in any way to subvert their authority; 2) anyone who without a canonical investiture or provision made according to the sacred canons occupies an ecclesiastical office, benefice or dignity, or allows anyone to be unlawfully intruded into the same, or who retains the same; 3)  those who have any part directly or indirectly in the crimes mentioned in one (1) and  two (2).” Canon 2345 also declares an ipso facto excommunication especially reserved to the Holy See for “usurpation and retention of the goods and rights of the Papacy.”

Canons 15 and 16

Abp. Amleto Cicognani discusses Canon 15, which states: “All laws, including invalidating and inhabilitating laws, lose their binding force in a doubt of law.” And Can. 16 states that no ignorance of invalidating or disqualifying laws excuse from their observance unless the law so states. Can. 15 is the canon most Traditionalists cite to justify dismissing a doubtful law as non-binding, allowing them to proceed to celebrate the Mass and administer the Sacraments. They ignore Can. 16. Cicognani explains Can.15 as follows: “The present Canon is not concerned with doubts about the divine law or those regarding the matter and form of the Sacraments. These points we leave to Moral Theology, particularly to that part which treats of Probabilism, which teaches that system is tenable though requiring caution in its use…The inscription of this title of the Code is Ecclesiastical Laws and of these alone, therefore, do we speak.” Both Cicognani and Revs. Woywod-Smith, in their Canon Law commentary, (also Revs. McHugh and Callan in their Moral Theology, A Complete Course, #678) list the following exceptions to Can. 15, which are enumerated below by Reverend Dominic Prummer, O.P., (Handbook of Moral Theology):

A doubtful law has no binding force whenever the doubt concerns the lawfulness of an act AND NOT ITS VALIDITY. Whatever may be said about the truth of this principle, which is fiercely attacked by some theologians, all modern theologians are agreed that it cannot be applied in the following cases:

“a) When the doubt concerns the validity of the Sacraments;
“b) When the doubt concerns something which is absolutely necessary for salvation” (for example, the necessity of obedience to the Roman Pontiff) or
“c) When the question involves the established right of a third party” (end of Prummer quote). Canon 682 documents the rights of the laity to receive the spiritual goods and especially the necessary means of salvation from theclergy, (but first PROVE that Traditionalists have received tonsure and are members of the clergy.) And this must be done “according to the rules of ecclesiastical discipline.”

In his The History, Nature, and Use of Epikeia in Moral Theology, Catholic University of America Press, (1948),  Rev. Lawrence Joseph Riley concurs with the above, writing on pages 344 and 347: “Those elements which are necessary to the validity of the Sacraments remain so EVEN IN THE FACE OF EXTREME DIFFICULTY OR IMPOSSIBILITY — much more so in the presence of a situation where the difficulty is not so grave. The Sacraments exist according to the institution of Christ or they don’t exist at all. In short, it may be concluded that IN REGARD TO MATTERS WHICH TOUCH THE ESSENCE OF THE SACRAMENTS, THE USE OF EPIKEIA IS ALWAYS EXCLUDED…In regard to the essence of these Sacraments, what has been explained above of all the Sacraments is applicable to them – viz., that epikeia is never licit.”

Traditionalists claim Rev. Riley’s work grants them the specific capacity to act, but they do not factor in the papal teaching which supersedes Riley’s work, the above teachings by canonists and theologians and the fact that this teaching cannot be merrily gainsaid since it is shown to be the unanimous opinion of the theologians. The higher law always prevails, but Traditionalists know no law. A thorough reading of Riley’s work will prove their allegations are baseless.

These exceptions to Can. 15 are founded on Bd. Pope Innocent XI’s teaching (DZ 1151), which forbids the use of probable opinions in the reception of the Sacraments. Prummer, agreeing with other Catholic canonists and theologians, explains that no one is allowed to perform an act while in a state of positive, practical doubt. When in doubt about whether an action is lawful, one must refrain from acting or remove the doubt. This is done directly by searching for the truth, and when that truth can be proven from the laws and teachings of the Church Herself, then there is no longer any doubt.

Since what Prummer presents on sacramental validity and eternal salvation is the unanimous opinion of theologians, it binds all Catholics as a truth of faith (see the blog post on religious assent). Pope Pius IX teaches in Tuas Libentur,(1863): “It is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church…It is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some other censure” (DZ 1684). Catholics have no choice but to obey.

Why Traditionalists are not serving the faithful

For a moment it will be useful to return to Pope St. Pius X and Acerbo Nimis, where this saintly pope emphasizes the necessity of teaching over that of administering the Sacraments as a means of salvation. Instead, Traditionalistswithhold necessary teachings of the Church from their followers to retain membership in whatever sect they operate, and essentially intellectually deprive them of the ability to inform their consciences and secure the state of their souls. While the canonists include especially the “necessary sacraments” among those means, these cannot be administered outside “the rules for ecclesiastical discipline,” (see Can. 682), and they certainly cannot be administered when there is any doubt regarding their validity, as demonstrated above. Moreover, only the sacrament of Baptism and Holy Orders are truly Sacraments necessary for salvation, and Holy Orders only when it is conferred in the manner prescribed by the Church. The preceding blogs have amply demonstrated just how far outside the rules of all ecclesiastical discipline Traditionalists operate, and how many different popes declare their actions null, void and invalid.

Very serious reasons sufficient to remove ALL doubt that Traditionalists could possibly be valid have been advanced from the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and office of the Holy See in questioning their validity. The following is only a brief summary of why any right-thinking Catholic should hold the sacraments dispensed by Traditionalists as doubtfully valid, based on those proofs.

  • All those Traditional priests now consecrated as bishops were ordained by Marcel Lefebvre and/or Peter Ngo dinh Thuc, (or one of their “successors”) during an interregnum despite the notorious nature of their affiliation with the Roman usurpers. Recognize and resist, practiced by both men, involves Catholics cooperating in sin with individuals St. Bernard and the ecumenical councils call antichrists.
  • Both Thuc and Lefebvre recognized John 23 and Paul 6 and their successors as true popes, said the Novus Ordo Missae, and signed Vatican 2 documents, incurring communicatio in sacris, schism and infamy of law, (Canons 2314 §3 and 188 no. 4). Infamy of law alone invalidates their ecclesiastical acts, including ordinations and consecrations (Can. 2294 §2). Their creation of any so-called clerics never happened.
  • Such public and external acts detailed above should be more than enough to convince a reasonable person that these men could not have acted with the intention to create truly Catholic priests and bishops loyal to the Roman Pontiff even if they had been able to do so validly.
  • None of the above possessed the required papal mandate before performing their consecrations and were excommunicated ipso facto per Pope Pius XII’s Ad Apostolorum Principis. Furthermore, Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis also nullified even their attempted acts because we live during an interregnum.
  • None of these men received valid tonsure, (an act of jurisdiction, not orders), because Lefebvre and Thuc could not validly administer it since they possessed no jurisdiction. Without valid tonsure they are not considered clerics. “Those who have been assigned to the divine ministry at least by the first tonsure are called clerics” (Can. 108), and Cicognani says this canon originates from divine law. “By reception of the first tonsure, a cleric is ascribed to — or incardinated in — the diocese for the service of which he was promoted.” (Can. 111). What diocese?
  • None of those ordained or consecrated by anyone claiming to be a bishop attended papally erected and approved seminaries.
  • Few if any of their teachers were validly ordained before Pope Pius XII’s death, so the validity of their instruction in Catholic theology is gravely in question.
  • And the list goes on, and on…

Just as a doubtful law is no law and a doubtful pope is no pope, likewise doubtful sacraments are no sacraments. This is a universal principal of Canon Law now endorsed unanimously by moral theologians in this instance. It is not just the consecrations that are in question but the ordinations of those consecrated as well. And as both Pope Pius VI and Pope Pius XII teach infallibly, acts performed by those so consecrated outside the Church, and the acts of those they “ordain,” are null and void SIMPLY BECAUSE THE POPES SAY THEY ARE NULL AND VOID. These same popes also teach that we are bound to obey their edicts as a condition of eternal salvation, per (b) above in Rev. Prummer’s quote. This obedience to the laws regarding the sacraments IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION; receiving doubtfully valid Sacraments is a sacrilege, and sacrilege is a mortal sin. Therefore, these laws must be obeyed, if the safer course is to be followed, and indeed it must be followed regardless.

Furthermore, regarding the cessation of law, we read from the moral theologians: “If no serious reasons can be found to prove or directly disprove that a certain law has ceased or been abrogated, the principle to be followed is: ‘In doubt, decide for that which has the presumption.In this case the presumption is for the continuance of the law, since it was certainly made, and there is no probability for its non-continuance,” (St. Alphonsus Liguori as quoted by Revs. McHugh and Callan under the rules of conscience in their Moral Theology: A Complete Course). What better “presumption” than the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs that bind us in conscience?! Regarding these laws governing the canonical assessment of doubt, we have amply demonstrated in the preceding blog pieces that the Roman Pontiffs themselves provide the grounds for regarding both the consecration of Traditional bishops as well as the men these “bishops” subsequently “ordain” as null, void and invalid. This is the highest form of proof, for the pope and his successors hold the primacy of jurisdiction and are the supreme legislators in the Church, (The Vatican Council, DZ 1823, 1831).

Canon 1812 tells us that acts issuing from the Roman Pontiff and the Roman Curia during the exercise of their office and entered as proof (in ecclesiastical courts) “prove the facts asserted,” (Can. 1816), and force the judge to pronounce in favor of the party producing the document, (commentary by Revs. Woywod-Smith). “Proof to the contrary is not admitted against Letters of the Roman Pontiff bearing his signature,” (Cicognani, ibid. p. 626, ft. note). Documents entered into the Acta Apostolic Sedis do not need to be submitted in the original or be an authenticated copy, (Can. 1819). “In doubt, facts cannot be presumed, but must be proved. When in doubt one must stand by presumption and presumption must yield to truth. There is no argument against the evidence. No argument or conclusion contrary to the evident facts is valid, (Rev. Bernard Wuellner, S. J., Summary of Scholastic Principles,1956). Therefore, no proof can be offered against these documents. These operating principles of the Roman Curia are one of the rules Canon Law requires those proceeding on the premise of doubt to consult, (see Can. 20).

Epikeia and Canons 16, 18, 20 and 21

  1. Epikeia is also excluded from use in invalidating laws, in the interests of the common good and in reference to Can. 15.

 Epikeia is considered only a moderating influence in the application of the law. Abp. Cicognani tells us under Can. 16, which explains that ignorance cannot be used to excuse oneself from invalidating and disqualifying laws: “EPIKEIA HAS NO PLACE IN INVALIDATING LAWS, for the common good demands certitude concerning the validity of acts” (Canon Law). He makes an exception for those things where the law, sacramental validity and matters involving eternal salvation, also the rights of third parties, are excluded from consideration in doubts of law. This is true because these exceptions concern validity, not lawfulness, as Prummer points out. So now we know that Traditionalists cannot claim they are serving the common good whenever these three principles are in question. The common good “demands certitude” in this regard, as Rev. Riley also states, and we have already seen such certitude cannot and does not exist.

Rev. Riley also states on p. 387 of his work already cited above: “At most, epikeia can excuse the individual from the precept, but it can never confer the capacity to act. Epikeia cannot bestow upon him the power which he does not now possess, nor can epikeia restore the power which the law has withdrawn. For such bestowal or restoration of power a positive act is required.” The Roman Pontiffs who have voided these acts cannot be consulted concerning a decision on the matter, but they have left copious works to us which indicate their intention in no uncertain terms. Rev. Riley rightly states that “The lawful use of epikeia demands on the part of the subject a prudent judgment that the legislator excluded from his law the case in question,” and such a judgment Traditionalists cannot provide.

  1. Canons 18 and 21 won’t save them.

In their rush to justify their actions, Traditionalists appeal to Can. 20, disregarding the method provided by Canon Law to resolve doubts. Since there really is no doubt that can be resolved in their case, considering the Sacraments are excluded from consideration, their appeal is only an exercise in futility. Abp. Cicognani says about Canon 18: “If there is a law covering this case, this rule (Can. 20) is not to be applied according to the meaning of Can. 18.” In a doubt of law, Canon 18 refers readers to parallel passages of the Code, the end and circumstances of the law and the mind of the legislator. As seen above, the supreme legislators, the Roman Pontiffs, have given the faithful abundant indications of their intentions both in their non-infallible and infallible pronouncements — end of story. As Abp. Cicognani and Rev. Charles Augustine both point out, Canon 21 would temper Canon 20 anyway, even though Traditionalists are not allowed to bypass Can. 18 to appeal to that canon.

Canon 21: “Laws made for the purpose of safeguarding the public against a common danger bind, even though in a particular case there is no danger.” Under Can. 19, Can. 21 must be interpreted strictly, because, as Abp. Cicognani stated, “This principle establishes an exception…[to] the cessation of ecclesiastical law… The matter is closely connected with the doctrine on presumption, ‘A probable conjecture about an uncertain affair,’ that is, a deduction… Objectively considered, a presumption is termed…of private, or  personal danger, or of common danger, when the law presumes that in certain  circumstances there exists…for all individuals the danger of sin or fraud, deception or perversion.” But Cicognani has already told us that doubts regarding divine law and the matter and form of the Sacraments cannot be covered under the heading of ecclesiastical law. A probable conjecture (probability) cannot be used in regard to the Sacraments. But because Traditionalists misinterpret the terms of Can. 21 to suit themselves, this canon will be examined below.

What Traditionalists dispute here is the definition of common danger. They present this common danger as the absence of Mass and Sacraments, the ordinary means of grace, because they tell their followers this is the only possible way to save their souls. But the Church provides other channels of grace and substitutes for this loss (Act of Perfect Contrition, Spiritual Communion, St. John’s Mass), means which Traditionalists denigrate and even denounce. What might their motives be? Suffice it to say that money and power are only two possibilities that come to mind. But the REAL common danger, mentioned above by Cicognani, is “the danger of sin or fraud, deception or perversion.” Sin, being the sacrileges Traditionalists commit and induce others to commit in dispensing and receiving the “sacraments,” which cannot fall under the title of ecclesiastical laws.  Fraud and deception meaning the misrepresentation of the true means of grace, the infallible teachings of the Church, the very nature of that infallibility and the true status of the “clergy” — those simulating Mass and Sacraments. Perversion? Well that is a story all in itself, and it is not limited to Novus Ordo clergy by any means.


Reverends Cicoganni, Bouscaren-Ellis, Woywod-Smith, Francis Miaskiewicz, Raymond Kearney, Lawrence Joseph Riley, McHugh and Callan — all these canonists and theologians also warn in their works of the great caution that must be used in applying epikeia, and the many dangers of abuse in attempting this application even if limited, as it must be, to ecclesiastical law; but matters concerning the Sacraments and eternal salvation do not fall under ecclesiastical laws (1).  Abp. Cicognani clearly states it is NOT to be applied to invalidating laws (2) and they must adhere to laws governing doubts under Can. 18 that would consult the circumstance of the law and the intention of the lawgiver (3). So that is three strikes you’re out for Traditionalists.

Epikeia cannot be said to overturn the unanimous opinion of theologians, far less papal decrees. These are documented expressions of the mind of the lawgiver binding on the consciences of the faithful and cannot be dismissed. The intention of the lawgiver can never be construed to approve anything that would amount to an abuse of the Sacraments. The lawfulness of Traditionalist acts is not what is being questioned here as Prummer observes. It is the very validity of their acts, and at no time can that validity ever be in doubt when it involves the Sacrament of Orders and jurisdiction necessary for the Sacrament of Penance, the Eucharistic consecration or a question involving eternal salvation. Obedience to the lawgivers, the Roman Pontiffs, alone is the overriding interpreter of Canon Law and they have spoken frequently and eloquently on the nullity and invalidity of Traditionalist acts. The choice is to obey either the Continual Magisterium or Traditionalists, and Catholics who hear the voice of their Shepherd know who they must choose to follow. “He who is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me, scatters” (Matt. 12:30).




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